For a sport widely considered as to have started sports in the country, baseball should have been enjoying immense popularity among sports-loving Filipinos.
It did in the late 1900s when America’s grand pastime came to the country with the first contingent of American soldiers, who landed here in May 1898 with Admiral George Dewey after emerging victors over the Spanish Armada in the historic Battle of Manila Bay.
And in the 1950s as well when a bunch of veteran Philippine team blasted Japan, 8-1, in 1954 to win the inaugural staging of the Baseball Federation of Asia championship before an overflow crowd of 20,000 at the then 20-year-old Rizal Memorial ballpark.
Up to and until 1966, ironically, when baseball started its downfall, another set of homegrown clouters wound up third in the First World Amateur Championship held in Honolulu, Hawaii.
It, thus, made baseball the only team sport outside of basketball in 1954 and women’s softball in 1970, to bring home a medal in the world level competitions.
It is those glorious and memorable moments in the history of Philippine sports the 2019 national squad bowed to relive starting with the coming 30th Southeast Asian (SEA) Games to be hosted by the country November to December this year.
“It looks hard to do that, but, nevertheless, our intention really in the present leadership at the Philippine Amateur Baseball Association (headed by former basketball star Chito Loyzaga) is buhayin muli ang baseball dito sa Pilipinas,” Pepe Muñoz, PABA secretary said in a phone interview on Wednesday.
“And where do we start? Siyempre in the lowest of regional competition as the SEA Games,” Muñoz, himself a former baller, reasoned out. “We actually started the rebuilding process last year when our boys competed and, in fact, won the Asean championship.”
Muñoz said PABA is, likewise, fielding the same team it formed for the SEA Games in this year’s Asian Championship scheduled October 14-20 in Taichung, Taiwan.
A well balanced nine, made of up of battle-scarred veterans and newly-graduate players from the UAAP has been formed for the purpose, according head coach Orlando Binarao.
Binarao, a baseball/softball great, said the team that passed his and assistant coach Wilfredo Hidalgo’s stringent standard, was built, precisely, to win anew the SEA Games crown won in 2011, the last time baseball was held.
Baseball, actually, has not regularly been played in the SEA Games. The sport had, in fact, been contested only three times so far, including that and in 2005 and 2007.
The Philippines reigned supreme in 2005 here in Manila, lost the title to Thailand in 2007 but returned to the throne in 2011.
Binarao, who appeared as guest in the Scoop On Air Forum last Friday at The Manila times Television studio, assured that his team is practically a brand new team formed to win the SEA Games plum.
“We retained four members of the 2011 team to lend experience to our young team plus leadership,” Binarao said. ”What I can promise our countrymen is this team is strong enough to defend the tile for the country.”
As far as the Asian Championship is concerned, the head coach of Adamson University in the UAAP admitted: “Medyo malayo pa. Masyado kasing naiwan tayo ng ibang bansa. Natanggal na nga tayo sa fourth place sa Asian ranking.”
Nine pitchers , headed by grizzled internationalist Romeo Jasmin of the 2011 fame were named to form the Nationals’ first line of defense that includes Ferdinand Liguanan, Diego Lozano, Arvin Herrera, Jerome Yenson, Paolo Macasaet, Francis Gesmundo, Papap dela Cruz and Jun Mar Diarao.
Other members of the team are Dindo Almonte, Adrian Bernardo, Vladi Eguia, Jennald Parereja, Jon-Jon Robles, Steven Manaig, Vetrixc Castillo, Alfredo de Guzman, Ignacio Escano, Alvaro Macasaet, Jarus Inobio, Kyle Villafania, Clarence Caasalan, Erwin Bosito and Jonash Ponce.